Tags: Chile | left | right | Americas

Chile Shifts Right in Leftist Latin America

Monday, 18 January 2010 09:17 AM

Having won Chile's presidential election by a narrow margin, billionaire businessman Sebastian Pinera must now chart the country's future for the next four years.

But when he takes over from President Michelle Bachelet on 11 March Mr Pinera will, in many ways, inherit a relatively easy country to govern.

Chile's per capita gross domestic product (GDP) is among the highest in the region and the country boasts a long and strong democratic tradition - despite the notoriety of the military dictatorship of Gen Augusto Pinochet in the 1970s and 1980s.

It is the least corrupt country in Latin America and one of the most stable.

The Chilean poverty rate has plummeted from 39% when Gen Pinochet stepped down in 1990 to less than 14% now - the biggest drop anywhere in Latin America.

Just this month, Chile became the first country in South America to join the OECD, the club of the world's wealthiest, most developed states.

Mr Pinera also has the benefit of cash in the bank.

Between 2005 and 2008, when money was pouring into the country from the sale of its chief commodity, copper, Chile racked up combined fiscal surpluses of $42bn (£26bn) - equivalent to a remarkable 26% of GDP.

Mrs Bachelet has spent some of that money to offset the impact of the global economic crisis but there is plenty left over, and with the all important copper price creeping back up towards historic highs thanks to incessant demand from Asia, the prospects for the Chilean economy are bright.

They will need to be. Mr Pinera has vowed to deliver an annual growth rate of 6% over the next four years and one million new jobs - bold promises in a country with a work force of less than nine million.

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Monday, 18 January 2010 09:17 AM
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